Nebraska and Wisconsin still chasing bowl eligibility

Field Level Media

November 15, 2023 at 12:49 am.

Wisconsin and Nebraska both will attempt to become bowl eligible when the stumbling Big Ten teams meet Saturday night in Madison, Wis.

Wisconsin (5-5, 3-4 Big Ten) is coming off an embarrassing 24-10 loss at home to Northwestern. Nebraska (5-5, 3-4) lost at home to Maryland, 13-10, on a field goal as time expired.

The Badgers and Cornhuskers are in a five-way tie for second, two games behind Iowa in the Big Ten West.

The Badgers, picked to win the West in the preseason poll under first-year coach Luke Fickell, have lost three straight. Wisconsin has played in a bowl game in each of the last 21 seasons, the longest active streak in the Big Ten and the third longest in FBS football.

The Wisconsin defense was shredded in the first half by Northwestern, which had touchdown drives of 79, 68 and 90 yards and then added a field goal for a 24-3 halftime lead.

“There’s no answers,” Wisconsin safety Hunter Wohler said. “We just have to play better. We come out soft. We come out flat. We have zero energy on either side of the ball. And we get whooped around the field.”

Tanner Mordecai returned after missing three games with a broken throwing hand and completed 31 of 45 passes for 255 yards, but no touchdowns. Leading rusher Braelon Allen tried to return after missing the previous game with an ankle injury, but left again after gaining 3 yards on three carries.

Nebraska, which last played in a bowl game to conclude the 2016 season, has committed 27 turnovers, for a minus-14 turnover margin. The Huskers had five turnovers in the loss to Maryland, including three in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Heinrich Haarberg came away with an ankle injury against Maryland, and both Jeff Sims and Chubba Purdy played. All three QBs threw at least one interception as the Huskers passed for just 86 yards.

Nebraska coach Matt Rhule said Monday that the starter vs. Wisconsin might not be known until game time.

The Badgers have won nine straight against Nebraska, including all eight since the Freedom Trophy was introduced in 2014. Wisconsin has not lost a home game in the series and is 10-1 vs. the Cornhuskers since they joined the Big Ten in 2011.

“They’re a really good football team with really good players,” Rhule said of the Badgers. “Big, physical, raw, athletic. Luke Fickell’s an excellent football coach.”

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